Though Dario Franchitti was expecting the request to compare his IZOD IndyCar Series championships less than an hour after securing the record-tying third, he was at a loss to adequately put it in perspective.
“Looking back to the start of 2007, I hadn't won a championship,” he said at the post-race news conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “I won a lot of races, but not a championship or Indy 500. Now we find ourselves with two ‘500s’ and three championships.
“I'm just going to enjoy it. I think I'm just going to let it sink in, enjoy it.”
Update: In the crisp autumn air of the mountains of Tennessee, the accomplishments of the 2010 season sunk in.
“I was up there hiking and it hit me,” said Franchitti, who returned home Oct. 11 from a brief get-away with wife Ashley. “Wow, we did it. We won that third. It was a great feeling when it finally hit me. But it's the kind of thing that I think feels even better when you're celebrating it with your team.”
Franchitti totaled three victories this season (to chief competitor Will Power’s five), and it was the consistency throughout the 17-race season on the most diverse set of racetracks in motorsports that again sealed the deal.
With 26 Indy car victories, tying Rodger Ward for 11th on the career list, team owner Chip Ganassi has stated that Franchitti should be included among the greats not only of this generation but all-time. The third series title in the past four years and two Indianapolis 500 victories are additional evidence.
“You win championships and you win races by first finishing and then finishing first,” Ganassi said. “There is a lot that goes into all of that. Dario just has a keen eye on the race at hand any particular weekend. But he also has his left eye on the goal post at the end of the year.
“I think he keenly understood in Brazil at the beginning of a year what it takes to win a championship at the end of the year. And he's good at all the types of circuits we go to. It's not just one thing, but it's a plethora of inputs into a total package. It starts right with him though. You have to want to do it. First of all, the key is the fire that burns in his belly.”
Franchitti, who signed with Ganassi Racing’s IndyCar program for the ’09 season after a half season with the organization’s stock car team, noted that Ganassi (a former Indy car competitor) “gives you all the things to do it. You just have to go out and perform.”
Easier said than done over the 17-race season against a deep and competitive field, but already he’s looking ahead to 2011.
“When I get back from Australia (to compete Oct. 24 in a V8 Supercars race) to start in November, I'll be heading up to Indianapolis and sitting with (engineers and team managers) and the whole technical side of Team Target. And we'll be talking about next year and where to improve.
“I'm sure Chip and I will be getting together as well. He'll be putting his side of things in there, too. We'll start working already on it. Testing is going to be here before we know it. I suppose in some ways the good point is I'm already up for it. But I think I do need a couple of weeks off.”